Aluminum Oxide vs. Zirconia

What's the Difference?

Aluminum oxide and zirconia are both ceramic materials commonly used in various industries. However, they have distinct properties that make them suitable for different applications. Aluminum oxide, also known as alumina, is a highly versatile material with excellent hardness, wear resistance, and thermal conductivity. It is widely used in grinding wheels, cutting tools, and electrical insulators. On the other hand, zirconia, or zirconium dioxide, is known for its exceptional strength, toughness, and resistance to fracture. It is often used in dental implants, ceramic crowns, and other medical applications where high strength and biocompatibility are crucial. While both materials have their unique advantages, the choice between aluminum oxide and zirconia ultimately depends on the specific requirements of the intended application.


AttributeAluminum OxideZirconia
Chemical FormulaAl2O3ZrO2
ColorWhiteWhite, Yellow, or Brown
Crystal StructureHexagonalTetragonal or Cubic
Hardness9 on Mohs scale8.5 on Mohs scale
Melting Point2072°C2715°C
Electrical ConductivityInsulatorInsulator
Thermal ConductivityInsulatorInsulator
ApplicationsAbrasives, refractories, ceramicsDental implants, artificial joints, cutting tools

Further Detail


When it comes to industrial applications, materials with exceptional properties are highly sought after. Two such materials that have gained significant attention are aluminum oxide and zirconia. Both aluminum oxide and zirconia possess unique attributes that make them suitable for various industries. In this article, we will explore and compare the key characteristics of these materials, including their physical properties, mechanical strength, thermal conductivity, chemical resistance, and applications.

Physical Properties

Aluminum oxide, also known as alumina, is a white crystalline powder with a high melting point of approximately 2,072 degrees Celsius. It has a density of 3.97 g/cm³ and a Mohs hardness of 9, making it one of the hardest materials known. On the other hand, zirconia, also called zirconium dioxide, is a white solid with a melting point of around 2,715 degrees Celsius. It has a density of 5.89 g/cm³ and a Mohs hardness of 8.5. While both materials are highly durable, zirconia is slightly denser and has a lower Mohs hardness compared to aluminum oxide.

Mechanical Strength

When it comes to mechanical strength, both aluminum oxide and zirconia exhibit impressive properties. Aluminum oxide has excellent compressive strength, with values ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 MPa. It also has a high flexural strength of approximately 300 MPa. Zirconia, on the other hand, possesses even higher mechanical strength. It has a compressive strength of 2,000 to 2,500 MPa and a flexural strength of 900 to 1,200 MPa. These superior mechanical properties make zirconia an ideal choice for applications that require high strength and resistance to fracture.

Thermal Conductivity

Thermal conductivity is an important property to consider in many industries, especially those involving heat transfer. Aluminum oxide has a relatively high thermal conductivity of around 30 W/m·K, allowing it to efficiently conduct heat. Zirconia, on the other hand, exhibits a lower thermal conductivity of approximately 2.5 W/m·K. This lower thermal conductivity makes zirconia an excellent thermal barrier material, as it can effectively insulate against heat transfer. Therefore, the choice between aluminum oxide and zirconia depends on the specific thermal requirements of the application.

Chemical Resistance

Chemical resistance is a crucial attribute for materials used in corrosive environments. Aluminum oxide demonstrates excellent chemical resistance, particularly against acids and alkalis. It is highly stable and does not react with most chemicals, making it suitable for applications in the chemical industry. Zirconia, on the other hand, exhibits good chemical resistance but is not as resistant as aluminum oxide. It may react with certain strong acids or alkalis, limiting its use in highly corrosive environments. Therefore, aluminum oxide is often preferred in applications where superior chemical resistance is required.


Due to their unique properties, both aluminum oxide and zirconia find applications in various industries. Aluminum oxide is widely used as an abrasive material in grinding wheels, sandpaper, and polishing compounds. It is also utilized in the production of refractory ceramics, electrical insulators, and catalyst supports. Zirconia, on the other hand, is commonly employed in the manufacturing of dental ceramics, cutting tools, and wear-resistant components. Its low thermal conductivity makes it suitable for thermal barrier coatings in gas turbines and other high-temperature applications. Additionally, zirconia is used in the production of oxygen sensors and solid oxide fuel cells.


In conclusion, both aluminum oxide and zirconia possess remarkable attributes that make them valuable materials in various industries. Aluminum oxide exhibits exceptional hardness, high thermal conductivity, and superior chemical resistance. On the other hand, zirconia offers excellent mechanical strength, low thermal conductivity, and good chemical resistance. The choice between these materials depends on the specific requirements of the application, such as the need for high strength, thermal insulation, or resistance to corrosive environments. By understanding the unique properties of aluminum oxide and zirconia, engineers and manufacturers can make informed decisions to optimize the performance of their products.

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